Category Archives: Television

“Girls”, “Last Man on Earth”, and the Art of Being Unlikeable

When I was thirteen, I was in love with this girl named (hmm…let’s call her) Jenny. Jenny had no idea who I was, and if she did, she was keeping it way on the down-low. One day, I saw her talking to a boy named Tristan, whom I knew to be a student with special needs (we did not call them that then…).

I saw Tristan as my “in”, and if I could establish some rapport with Tristan, establish some bonafides with Jenny (I’m nice, I talk to “special” kids), then establish that Tristan could go away, I might be able to finagle the situation into something resembling a come-on.

Foolproof.

Except, Jenny really had no idea who I was, and when I approached, asked Tristan if I was his “little friend.” Forget that she was patronizing: that’s what cool, pretty, popular junior high school girls did, as far as my thirteen-year-old brain could tell. Hell, the only boys with the stones to approach them without some hare-brained scheme were the kids blessed with lowered faculties for manipulation, abuse, and exploitation (This is, of course, not necessarily true; I’m sure those with different, perhaps even objectively diminished mental faculties are just as capable of manipulation as Mensa-grade diplomats in war-torn Darfur, but it did not seem that way to my thirteen-year-old brain. I chose Tristan because I saw him not as a person but as an opportunity). Anyway, I took her comment as an affront and more importantly a wedge in my genius plan, so I back-pedaled, informed everyone who would listen that Tristan was not my friend because I was not in the same classes as him, because I was not retarded.

Yep. Retarded. Said it at least three times, once in that junior high voice that signified to assholes everywhere the idea of “retarded.”

Jenny and I are Facebook friends now. That’s the extent of our romance. I do not remember one conversation we had after that afternoon that did not begin with “Do you have a pencil?” and end with “Yes/No.” It never occurred to me to apologize to Tristan, which is shameful. He is, as far as I can tell, not on Facebook.

I am tiptoeing like a ballerina on hot coals to distance myself from that disgusting little thirteen-year-old bastard. Except, I still am that disgusting little bastard, in my heart. Insecure, sneaky, manipulative, and consciously striving to approach others with honesty and integrity and without prejudice, especially when I have the opportunity to make someone I perceive as “less-than-I” look dumber, weaker, angrier, or meaner, therefore making me look smarter, stronger, happier, and kinder to someone I want to impress. Especially if I think it’s funny.

I mention this not as some mea culpa (25 years late…) but because the season finale of “Girls” and a particularly gnarly pair of episodes of “Last Man on Earth” aired on Sunday (3/22). The shows could not be more different, except that both have a particularly interesting knack for making the protaganist(s) artfully, if bludgeoningly, unlikeable.

The lack of likeable characters is a knock that’s dogged “Girls” since its premiere–spoiled, entitled, manipulative, bafflingly overconfident (to the point of psychosis–Marnie makes “Eastbound and Down’s” Kenny Powers look almost Buddhist)–and perhaps most damningly “hip to the point of insufferable triviality.” And yet the show leans into these criticisms, which leaves room for grace notes that seem earned. When Jessa surprises herself by taking control of the gonzo water-birth of Adam’s sister, it’s affecting, undercut by her decision later in the episode to become a therapist (she lacks the skill, education, empathy, and rigor to train a pet, let alone become a licensed therapist for other human beings). And yet you pull for her, just as you pull for Hannah and Adam and Ray–whether they’re trying or not, their weaknesses are the same weaknesses I see in myself (pretension, deflection, projection, self-pity, etc.).  Marnie and Desi suck, suck, suck, though.

Sunday’s “The Last Man on Earth” was surprising in its cruelty, even if it knew exactly what it was doing. Phil Miller’s (Will Forte) treatment of the new “last man” is so transparently immature and shitty (he talks of “the Fats” as if they are a racial subset) that it becomes a parody of insecure Alpha-male posturing (and done so ineptly as to be a kind of performance art). I actually think these two episodes could skew viewership, as Phil has become so unsavory, needy, and unlikeable that it transcends satire. It is only pathetic; there is no meta-agenda. I personally think it’s brave–it’s the most daringly awful a purportedly “comedic” show has consciously allowed its main character to act since Ricky Gervais’s David Brent in the British “Office”.

Many people like shows with “likeable” protaganists. What are these shows, objectively speaking? “The Big Bang Theory”? “Friends”? “Mike and Molly”? I’m cherry-picking, of course, and bashing on traditional, laughtrack-based shows of a certain ilk, and yet these shows have terrible human beings at their center. Whiny, unrealistic, grabby, awful people. Chandler Bing is such a profound homophobe he hates his own transgender dad and uses her as a point of ridicule. Ross’s codependency is borderline sociopathic. Rachel is a callow, materialistic man-eater. Joey is a stupid, amoral, gluttonous, womanizing douchebag. Take away the laugh track and it becomes an Andrew Jarecki documentary. The only reason we do not see that is because the conflicts and co-stars are even worse. We root for the protagonists because even though they are ethical monsters, the people they have to deal with and challenges they have to overcome are beyond the pale. The unlikeable is masked by the overall misanthropy of the writers and creators.

I enjoy “Girls” and “Last Man…” because they don’t just needle, they explore. We are asked not just to laugh at the characters, but come to terms with them. It’s the difference between “this is humanity” and “that is humanity”–one points in, the other out. The comedy pricks because the unsavory behavior is rooted in what we (OK…I) feel is endemic to our (my) insecurity, our (my) shitty behavior, our (…my) inept attempts to act like a human being. Which probably makes it that much more human.

Random Recommendation: “Headhunters” (Netflix), Morten Tyldum’s debut, is crazy and fun and risky. Basically everything his solid but staid second film “The Imitation Game” is not. At one point there is a chase involving a forklift, a dead dog, and a very, very dirty outhouse.

Can’t wait for: “Bitch Planet” by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Graphic novel that explores feminism and patriarchy through a combination of sci-fi and women-in-prison exploitation films of the 1970’s. Basically the weird bastard child of Betty Friedan and Russ Meyer.

 

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Twenty-One 2014 Moments (10 Weeks Late)

I wanted to work up lists for television, film, music and books. But I also wanted to blog this year, and with coaching baseball and moving that didn’t happen, so completing those lists would’ve just cemented how disconnected I was for most of the year. Instead, here are the twenty-one most profound things I’ve seen, heard, or read this year, in no particular order:

1. Ida

2. “Heal” by Strand of Oaks

3. Madison Bumgarner in the MLB Playoffs and World Series

4. Lego Movie

5. “Lost in a Dream” by The War on Drugs

6. Olive Kitteridge on HBO

7. Station Eleven by Hilary St. John Mantel

8. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

9. “The Outsiders” by Eric Church

10. Broadchurch on Netflix

11. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

12. The first hour and forty-five minutes of Django Unchained

13. The Magic Flute by Mozart

14. Jason Isbell

15. Serial and Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcasts

16. Stories of Stefan Zweig

17. Doris Lessing (Specifically The Fifth Child)

18. The Prophet by Michael Koryda

19. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

20. Grandmaster Clash by Seth Stevenson from Slate Magazine

21. Frank Rich’s conversation with Chris Rock

One nice thing about putting this out so late, is I can look at all the award winners and feel unjustifiably pissed-off and maybe a little insecure in my choices. I did not like Foxcatcher, for example. I really, really did not like Birdman, and feel like it is an empty stunt (Mike Myers once said haggis was invented on a dare–Birdman is the haggis of movies). Not sure about the new D’Angelo album.

In 2014, there were a lot of naked emperors. Loads of naked people, as far as I can tell (Boyhood is, at best, Donald-Ducking it).

I have every intention of blogging again. Two or three a week, I hope. I am going to try and keep it focused on something I’ve read, seen, or heard. I might throw in something personal every now and again…

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Psychics

I’m not ashamed to say I read most of my news off of Yahoo, which I realize is one of the shittiest places in the world from which to get your news.
I think it has to do with Yahoo’s insane need to try and take any and all possible reader-related factors into consideration when they put out a story. It has to be not-too-smart, not-too-scary, not-too-uninteresting. It has to be about what’s going on RIGHT THIS MINUTE, but it also has to be provacative enough encourage those who use message boards to post at least fifteen or twenty “useful” comments before someone throws in a homophobic or racist slur and the whole string becomes either self-righteous and unreadable or vile and unreadable.
Spoiler alert: the message boards never make it to 15 posts before this happens.
I understand that Yahoo news is crap. It’s called Yahoo News. Odds are, Bob Woodward is not champing at the bit to get a position there. But sometimes, and this is probably why I read it, there is an article that makes me wonder.
It happened again this week, in an article related to the odd story about the three women who escaped after ten years of captivity in Cleveland (actually, ten years’ captivity in a basement of some pervert’s house in Clevelend, not that ten years free in Cleveland is much better…RIMSHOT! MISTAKE BY THE LAKE! BURNING RIVER! THE INDIANS! Is this thing on?).
The article had nothing to do with the women, but about public outrage towards the psychic, Sylvia Browne, who told a mother of one of the girls that her daughter was dead. A year later the mother died, with Sylvia Browne ostensably to blame.
There are a lot of reasons to get angry at psychics: they’re con artists; they’re vultures, exploiting the grief and fear of parents and spouses for profit; they’re gadflies and pests who “volunteer” their services so vociferously when something like this happens that they can become a nuisance (the article does bring this up, albeit briefly), they usually abuse neckerchiefs are/or headscarves.
But the article, or at least the irate few the article covers, seem most upset that Silvia Browne was wrong.
That’s why they’re angry. Because she got it wrong. Are psychics ever right? I’ve never seen a psychic predict anything correctly (because I obviously have a shit-ton of experience with psychics and “their gift of second sight”…).
I told my father about the article, and he said it was like getting angry at weathermen (Weatherpeople? That sounds.like a creepy Sesame Street skit. In Dayton they call the dude who does the weather a “Storm Tracker,” which hits the holy trifecta of being pompous, buffoonish, and innacurate). I don’t completely agree. The people that predict the weather are right A LOT. Like 80% of the time I bet. They’re right so often that the public gets legitimately pissed when they are wrong. If they say sunny and eighty-five degrees, and it turns out to be forty-five and raining, that dumbass is probably fired. But getting angry at a psychic because she was wrong? That’s like becoming disillusioned with pornography.
“You’re telling me that this man and this woman do not love nor probably even have lustful feelings towards each other and are performing for the viewer’s benefit? And that the situations, positions and shall-we-say endurance of the performers is more-than-likely a performance too and not indicative of what I can look forward to in my life? Shit. Well, at least the women are so naturally beautiful and so startlingly well-endowed that it makes me believe in a just, wise, loving and charitable God who…really? Serious?..that too, huh? My life has just become smaller.”
And…End Scene
Psychics are bullshit entertainment. Using one to find your kid or wife is like hiring Mark Harmon because he’s “so smart on NCIS.”
Call the police. Shitty police are better than really, really good psychics. But for the love of god, save your self-righteous rancor for more important things, like the Cool Ranch Dorito Taco at Taco Bell. That thing shouldn’t suck, but it so fucking does.

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For What It’s Worth (Belated October 5th Edition)

I’ve been AWOL the past week or so, and my computer was in for repairs, so this is a bit late…

Movies:

A couple classics.  If you have a Blu-Ray player I insist that you find Jaws.  It’s probably the first time I realized how different Blu-Ray looks.  Even my kids noticed and remarked upon the difference.  My five-year-old son says Jaws is his favorite movie now.  Not bad for an almost forty-year old movie.

Born Yesterday: Judy Holliday’s career was truncated, if not destroyed, by the Red Scare.  She isn’t known for much besides this movie, and it’s possible that she couldn’t play anything else, but that was enough, because she created an archetype.  Everyone from Marilyn Monroe to early Julia Roberts is indebted to her performance as a not-as-dumb-as-she looks girlfriend of a magnate in D.C.  William Holden and Broderick Crawford are in the movie too, but you won’t notice them.

Music:

I’ll be quick, because there’s been a bunch.  Mumford and Son’s Babel is good, if predictable, and its strengths are also the harbinger of the band’s limits (quiet-LOUD dynamics, an earnestness that threatens to harden into cant).

Mirage Rock by Band of Horses is a pleasant surprise, if ultimately forgettable.

The new albums by Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective suck, because those bands suck and I hate them and even if I finally liked one of their albums I would never admit it because their earlier work sucks so hard.

Is anyone else awed and possibly dismayed that the two nineties bands that are still seemingly vital (besides Radiohead and The Foo Fighters, I guess) are Green Day and No Doubt?  Did anyone see that coming?

Books:

Find and read the short stories of Brian EvensonFugue State and Windeye, especially.  He’s been compared to Peter Straub in that he is ultimately a writer of fantasy and horror, but I think the comparisons to Robert Coover and Donald Barthelme are more apt.  Funny, very readable, and scary.  All the while the meta-tricks and tautological loop-di-loops are profound.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon: One of the things I constantly knock up against in my own writing is the word-count limits imposed by most magazines, whether online or print-based.  It’s frustrating, but whittling down my stories have never failed to make them tighter and better.  It’s obvious from this book that no one is imposing word-limits of Michael Chabon anymore.  When does that happen?  After a Pulitzer?  Anyway, all the eggshells that all of the critics are walking on about this book cannot hide these simple facts: there is no real propulsion driving this novel, there are no real stakes, and, most frustratingly, the combustible style Michael Chabon is known for has been used as a smokescreen for what is, simply, a collection of diffuse, fragmented, not-very-good-ideas.  And here’s the worst part: the style is so in your face, so thick, that it sounds less like Michael Chabon than a bad undergraduate’s fawning impersonation of Michael Chabon.

Television:

Elementary will probably be worth watching, if only for Jonny Lee Miller.  I still prefer Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, but why not New York City, and Lucy Lui as Watson?  Besides Dracula, Scrooge, and James Bond, Sherlock Holmes is probably the sturdiest character we’ve been given in the past two hundred years, and it’s nice to have himm back in two new incarnations.

Tuesday night on Fox–Ben and Kate, The Mindy Project, New Girl—is funny and makes my week better.

Online:

Librivox is a free service that gets volunteers to read books in the public domain, which I can then download and listen to while I run and clean the house.  I’ve polished off a bunch of Dickens and Hardy, and now I’m listening to Middlemarch.  It’s sketchy sometimes—these are not professional readers, and at times not even native English speakers, and I sometimes I wonder if they are in fact prisoners on some weird work-release program because why would you volunteer to do this?—but it’s free.

Oh, and the Reds lost to the Giants.  I’ll never watch baseball again.  Until next April.

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For What it’s Worth 9/18/12

Wow—I must’ve had either the busiest or laziest week of my life last week because I can’t think of too many recommendations to share.  Let’s call it the busiest and leave it at that.

Movies:

We rented Snow White and Huntsman on Friday but I fell asleep (passed out, which is not the same thing, I’m told) about fifteen minutes in.  We got the BluRay, and it took me a half-hour to figure out how to update the software on the Playstation 3 so it would play.  After that I was exhausted.   I never had to update my VCR.  New tech sucks it.

Way too many easy jokes…

The Cabin in the Woods: Cute premise, fun movie that believes itself to be a little smarter than it actually is.  Richard Jenkins steals the show as one of the office drones/puppet masters.  As a comment on horror and violence in cinema, the film had my attention until the last ten minutes or so.

Carnage: Cute premise, fun movie that believes itself to be a little smarter than it…actually…is.  Oh.  Same diff.  Jodie Foster is histrionic.  John C. Reilly is overmatched.  The timing is stilted and it’s stagy and claustrophobic, and not in the awesome, Roman Polanski’s-early-films-like-Rosemary’s-Baby-or-Repulsion.  That said–and reviewing the previous lines it looks like I hated this film—it has it’s moments.  Christoph Waltz is fine, though he has a bit of trouble with the accent.  Kate Winslet is given a whole lot to do, but not enough of substance with which to flex her muscles.  The ending’s a bit pat. Maybe I did hate this movie…

Also Carnage, but not in the movie

Music:

No new music.  The only chance I had to listen to any thing was when I went shopping with my kids and had my iPod on shuffle.  Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” came on and my kids asked why the Muppet singing the song was so sad.

After that, a new cut by Bob Dylan started playing and they made fun of me for having pirate music on my iPod.  I felt like firing up Tom Waits and Nick Cave for the remainder of the trip, but thought better of it.  Philistines.

Books:

Finished a book of poetry by Forrest Gander called Deeds of Utmost Kindness.  I read ten or twelve books of poems a year.  I can’t remember any of it.  They go through me like lentils.  I’m surprised I remember the title and author.  Sorry, Mr. Gander.  You’re very talented, I suspect.  I am just a moron.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz: I have it on good authority (a colleague who spoke with Diaz for all of three minutes) that Junot Diaz is a Class-A asshole.  If his stories are in any way autobiographical, it must be true.  I don’t put much stock in reading an author’s life into her stories, though, if only because I’d hate to piss anyone off with my own.  Stories have to be autobiographical, to a degree, right?  If only emotionally or intellectually or thematically autobiographical?  That said, there’s no need to get all “Dwayne-is-actually-Wayne-and-Stick-Cornhole-is-actually-Dick-Pornpole.” Anyway, the point is, that Diaz writes with electricity.  He manages to combine a Dominican street patois with an earnest, over-intellectual and even geeky joy, all the while telling tales of desperation and violence and sex and especially love in all of it’s spine-curving, head-exploding power.  Definitely the pop culture highlight of my week.

Television:

Wow.  Literally nothing.  Cincinnati Reds games, mostly.  Thirty games over five-hundred.  Keep rolling, Redlegs!

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For What it’s Worth 9/10/12

Pretty busy week last week, so there’s not a whole lot to recommend, but I want to do this every week, so here goes:

 

Music:

 Sun by Cat Power: I wasn’t a huge fan of her Jukebox albums, but I loved The Greatest, and this is a return to form, as far as I can tell.  She reportedly did the whole album solo and played all the instruments as well.

I know she’s had some personal problems, but I feel annoyed that every time she releases an album, the critical reviews always seem to regard it as some personal triumph, as if she’s some helpless, terminally damaged freak who can only get it together every three or four years to put out an album.  I hope it’s annoying to her too.

Tempest by Bob Dylan: Holy shit.  A couple of months ago a writer for The Guardian called out Bruce Springsteen as an artist in decline, as someone who serves less as a vital, contributing presence than as a revered albeit toothless demigod.  The article pissed me off, but I couldn’t argue.  Springsteen has put out one great album over the past decade-and-a-half; however, the songs that make up that one album are spread over five okay ones.  I thought, at the time, that Bob Dylan would be next in line for the same treatment.  His last very good album was Love and Theft, his last great one was Time Out of Mind.  His last album was shit.  My hopes were not high.  I was ready to scream out that the emperor was, at last, buck-ass naked.  Then he dropped The Tempest, his best album since Love and Theft and maybe since Time Out of Mind.

Is he still vital?  I don’t know.  Is this a profound and moving album that I will listen to for the foreseeable future?  Oh yes.

Television:

New TV is beginning soon, but nothing really to report otherwise.  Doctor Who is always worth checking out on BBC America…

Actually, check that—it’s the last season of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain on The Travel channel (!), and I initially hesitated to mention this only because at this point, you’ve probably seen an episode (or thirty) and have already made your mind up about the show itself and Bourdain in particular.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been a fan since his book Kitchen Confidential in the late 1990’s, the show is terrific and he basically has my dream job.  If you’re still on the fence, try to find the episode where he goes to the Ozarks, eats squirrel and raccoon, arms wrestles (and loses to) a sixty-five-year-old woman, almost kills critically acclaimed author Daniel Woodrell, and sheepishly explains the best way to prepare duck breast to two burly mallard hunters in Dickies and hooded sweatshirts.  Great stuff.

 

Film:

Certified Copy: Abbas Kiorastami is an Iranian filmmaker whose films are typically love-it-or-hate-it.  I really liked this film, but I’m reticent about recommending it in that it’s still difficult and even boring for stretches.

It concerns a couple who may or may not be in love, who may or may not have just met.  It reminds me of some early films of Antonioni in its execution and disregard for whether you, as a viewer, are entertained.  I typically admire that kind of artistic attitude, though at times his insistence on long stretches of nothing can solidify into a kind of pretentious tic.

The Five Year Engagement: Overlong, and not as funny as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it has Emily Blunt, which should, at this point, be enough for anyone with two eyes and a heart.

Internet:

Longform.org is a digest of outstanding, longer magazine and newspaper pieces.  This past week, I read an excellent GQ article by Devin Friedman about Rick Ross, a Believer interview with Jonathan Gold (whose food reviews are worth checking out on their own), and a New Yorker article about the new film Cloud Atlas by Alexander Hemon.  Until this point, I relied on Arts and Letters Daily for this kind of thing, so it’s nice to have another option.

 

Books:

I’m plodding through a collection of stories by the canonical Indian author R.K. Narayan (The Grandmother’s Tale).  Every time I feel like chucking it, something in the book charms me and I keep going.  Narayan is considered by many to be a master of the form, and it shows, mostly, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that just as often as I’m interested in the stories, I’m distracted or annoyed by how precious his prose can be.

Enemies, A Love Story by I.B. Singer: Now here’s a short novel, by a famous, Nobel winning author, that won’t put you to sleep.  It concerns a Holocaust survivor, relocated to Coney Island and married to the gentile, Polish woman who kept him safe for three years in her barn during the war.  In addition, he’s conducting an affair with a Jewish woman who survived Auschwitz.  The his wife, long thought dead, shows up in New York.  Complicated, funny, thought-provoking, and nasty.  We often read accounts of the Holocaust, but I rarely, if ever considered the complications that occurred afterwards.  How do you live a moral, sustained life after surviving such an atrocity?  When does life become worth living again?  And how does one re-establish human connections when everything and everyone you depended on is taken away from you?  Finally, this profoundly cynical question: if you are a rat-bastard to those you love, in what way are your sins forgiven and forgotten if you also happen to be victimized by the most horrifying atrocity ever conceived?  Does it make you a better person?  Can it excuse you?  In an explanatory note at the beginning of the book, Singer writes “I never had the pleasure of being a guest in one of Hitler’s camps…”  A bark of laughter into the void if there ever was one.

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For What it’s Worth (September 4)

A nice long labor day weekend.  We even made it to church.  Here are a couple things to prop you up this week.

Movies:

A Separation: I thought about writing an entire post about this film.  We’ll start with the fact that it’s Iranian, and at times, it’s difficult to suss out the motivations (religious, personal, and otherwise) and bureaucracy the characters sift through to find justice (if that’s what you want to call it).  I hope the general hoopla about this movie is more nuanced than a general, xenophobic surprise that Iranians are like us and not just head-scarved, camel-riding zealotes bent on American amelioration.  The five major characters in this twisty domestic drama, which moves and looks like a thriller, are flawed and heartbreaking.  The subject matter, one could argue, is something found on Lifetime, but handled with the dramatic precision of Greek theatre.

The Pirates!: Band of Misfits:  Slightly less serious but just as impressive is the new film from Aardman (Wallace and Gromit, Flushed Away).  Awesome to look at, each frame packed like a Mad Magazine cartoon panel, yet the humor is largely gentle and punning and mildly sardonic—very early Zucker Brothers, at their most random.  I worry that my kids will never fully shake the idea that Charles Darwin was a conniving idiot and Queen Victoria a sociopath, but we don’t live in England, so who cares?

Music:

The Carpenter by The Avett Brothers: Quieter than their previous, I and Love and You, and initially disappointing (where are the whoops and screams?), a second listen revealed the song craft, their strongest yet.  I love this band.

NPR Music App: Lest you worry that I ripped off the Avett Brothers and downloaded the album (Moi?  Non, non, non) before it drops on Sept. 11, let me introduce you to the free app from NPR and my new personal obsession.  The first listen option (currently you can stream the new Cat Power, Stars, Deerhoof, and a collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent, xx) is worth having it on your phone, but the podcasts, specifically All Songs Considered, are just icing.

Sweet Heart, Sweet Light by Spiritualized: I’ve never listened to Spiritualized, but after hearing snippets of songs on—what?–All Songs Considered, I snatched it up.  It’s the kind of album that makes you wonder why you weren’t listening all along.

Random: “I Love It” by Icona Pop (Swedish duo, though the “Swedish” part becomes obvious about two seconds into the song).  “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells (why haven’t I heard more about this group?  “Crimson and Clover”?  “Sweet Cherry Wine”?  Anyone else?), “The House that Heaven Built” by The Japandroids (makes me want to punch a hole in the ceiling of my car when it comes on—why does great music make me want to destroy things?)

Television:

Breaking Bad ended for the year with a good run, though at times I felt like there were some overly convenient twists and turns as the series draws to a close.

Copper: I’ve seen the first three episodes of this drama on BBC America, and though it’s not Deadwood, it’s a rowdy historical series that manages to meld the pleasures of a police procedural (NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life on the Street) with the grimy “Five Points” period of Civil War New York.  The main kick of the show is the rather jaundiced view that the corruption and loose ethical guidelines of the police force exist because of the entrenched moral depravity of the upper classes, who use the lives and land of immigrants and minorities as there own personal playground.  The show was created by Tom Fontana, who made Homicide and Oz, and though it tries too hard, it’s settling into a groove.

Doctor Who is back!!  It’s kind of a BBC week…

Books:

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper: I finished Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy before starting this, and I worry that the Tropper suffered unnecessarily in the transition.  That said, Tropper writes casual, funny prose and witty dialogue, though the repartee can get overlong and tired.  He’s basically the kind of foul-mouthed, sadsack men’s author, like Nick Hornby or Mordecai Richler or more recently Chad Harbach, who writes books about and for guys but is read predominantly by women because guys don’t read.  It concerns the former drummer of a one-hit wonder, his crappy life and impending death.   The book is funny, though at times a bit too broad, and worth your time, tough it pales in comparison to his previous book, This is Where I Leave You.  Truth be told, you should probably read the Thomas Hardy.  Or About a Boy by Nick Hornby, Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, or Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler.  Actually, just read Mordecai Richler—he should be mentioned in the same breath as Philip Roth.

 

Looking Forward to…

The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson

Mickey Mouse History edited by Mike Wallace

New Fall Television!

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